Older is here, but wiser seems to be on hold

By Jim Lee: PNT columnist

Jack Benny got away with calling himself 39 right up to his death at age 80. In reality, he actually turned 40 on St. Valentine’s Day in 1934.

Now that I’m getting older, he has become my role model. My friends tell me I need to stop saying I’m 39, but Jack Benny got away with it, so why can’t I?

Does remembering him make me over 39?

Truthfully, I must confess my claim to 39 does lose some credibility when one considers that my son is 35. And I may look a bit over 39, but just a little bit. This stems from the fact, just between you and me (and don’t tell anybody), that I turn 60 today.

Does this mean I have to admit I’m over 40? Not from my point of view. You see, since Mr. Benny claimed to be 39 at age 80, at 60 I’m 20 years younger than his 80. This means I can subtract 20 from his claim to 39 and become 19! Wow, I feel younger already.

This takes more off my mind than a military haircut. Maybe I should go back to college and try out for the football team. Better yet, I can join that homicidal faculty noontime basketball ritual at ENMU — let’s see those old fogies add that to the dislocated knees and shattered cheekbones.

Gosh and gee-whiz, becoming 19 sure is a great way to compensate for turning 60. Wait a minute. What about all that experience? Do I have to give that up?

I like to think getting older and wiser has its own special compensation. (In my case do I have to settle for one out of the two?)

I think the biggest difference between 19 and 60 is that at 19 we know everything while at 60 we think about how dumb the younger folks are until we have a problem with the computer.

If I resort to chronological veracity though, I have to say I turned 19 on March 13, 1964. The world people that age face now certainly differs from the one I faced. Back then it was fewer than five months since the murder of President Kennedy. Malcolm X, Robert Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were all very much alive and active. I was a young soldier in the final days of the peacetime military (except for some “advisors” off in that Asian backwater nobody had heard of), and it was over five years till Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin did the lunar boogie.

It was the same year Douglas MacArthur and Herbert Hoover bit the dust. It was just 11 years after the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

I’d better stop this before I feel like I’m 60.

A lot has happened since I took my first bow on the stage of life. (Ain’t that poetic, though?)

Sixty years ago today, March 13, 1945, was a bit over three months since the Battle of the Bulge. The big bombs smashing Hiroshima and Nagasaki were five months in the future. President Roosevelt was making deals with Churchill and Stalin. The American military was still segregated. The U.S. Air Force and the Central Intelligence Agency did not exist. With very rare exceptions, all movies were black and white. There was no TV. Social Security was just 10 years old, and New Mexico was 33.

Why don’t I feel 19, or even 39, after all that? As a kid I recall Laura Ingalls Wilder going to schools and talking about her Little House on the Prairie books. I remember prayer going out of the public schools and “under God” added to the Pledge of Allegiance. As a teenager I remember two stars being added to our flag and …

Yup, I got older. When do I get wiser?

Jim Lee is news director for KENW-FM radio. He also is an English instructor. He can be contacted at 359-2204. His e-mail: